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Plans to reach 90% of population: Mukesh

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MUMBAI, Dec. 27

THE Reliance group today unveiled its information and communication initiative, a 60,000-km, terabit capacity network of optical fibre cables (OFC) across the country that would carry voice, video, data and enable other value-added services.

When fully completed, the project, arguably Reliance's most ambitious and certainly the biggest diversification initiative since its entry into oil refining, is expected to cost about Rs 25,000 crore.

Mr Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Ltd, likened the lighting of the OFC network to "building the entire Indian railway network". He said that in scale of one-time rollout and complexity of the company, this is the biggest telecom project in the world.

"Reliance Infocomm is launching the most complex information and communication business anywhere in the world. We plan to reach 90 per cent of the country's population," Mr Ambani today told newspersons at Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City, a brand new, 140-acre facility in Navi Mumbai, housing the venture's national headquarters and operations centre. He said the project would be rolled out in three stages. The company would begin with reaching its mobile service, Reliance IndiaMobile, to 673 cities across the country. This would later be expanded to 2,000 cities.

Eventually the project would connect 6,40,000 villages, covering 1,16,000 km with the "ability to seamlessly connect every individual, home, and office in all 6,40,000 villages and 2,500 towns and cities of the country".

In the second stage, by mid-2003, Reliance Infocomm would provide 100 mega bits per second Ethernet links to every desktop and device to half-a-million enterprise buildings initially and eventually to 10 million buildings in the country.

By the end of 2003, the company would provide high-speed Ethernet links to 80 million homes initially and "eventually to every home", Mr Ambani said. Bookings for the IndiaMobile service would begin in January 2003, and are expected to be completed by March-end 2003.

The company has "committed Rs 11,000 crore to the project so far", which includes the cost of wireless and optic fibre systems. It has raised Rs 15,000 crore - Rs 9,000 crore through debt and Rs 6,000 crore through equity.

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